Cooky Cookies
September 11, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

When did the spelling of 'cookie' change from 'cooky'?

I got an old 'cooky' press from my grandmother that looks like it is from the 1950's. When did the conventional spelling change from 'cooky' to 'cookie'?
posted by Joe Chip to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert in the subject, but do you have other information other than the press? Personally, I've never seen the word "cooky" in use and I'd be kind of surprised if that ever was the conventional spelling but maybe its a regional thing?
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:45 PM on September 11, 2010

I just checked the Oxford English Dictionary. All but one of thir historical examples use "cookie", going back as far as 1730; the exception is a usage of "cookey" in 1870. "Cooky" is listed as an additional alternate spelling, though. My (uneducated) guess is it's a regional variant.
posted by teraflop at 10:48 PM on September 11, 2010

I remember seeing "cooky" in a Hardy Boys mystery (in, notably, an edition from the 60s) as an 8-year-old and being quite confused. Just a data point.
posted by Bromius at 10:50 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, note the 1963 edition of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.
posted by Bromius at 10:52 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just to add another data point, the 1961 edition of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary lists "cookie" as the primary spelling, "cooky" as a variant -- except when it means a cook (on a ranch or a ship), in which case "cookie" is the variant, "cooky" the primary spelling.
posted by baf at 11:03 PM on September 11, 2010

Based on my totally non-exhaustive Google search, with a visit to the Online Etymology Dictionary, and a short detour to this blog that was (is?) attempting to bake every single cooky from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, I'm thinking cooky---->cookie is just an example of diachronic change in language.
posted by simulacra at 11:31 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've seen it spelled "Cooky" exactly one time in my life, in a For Better Or For Worse comic strip.
posted by JHarris at 2:31 AM on September 12, 2010

Response by poster: Ok, so it sounds like cooky was just an alternate spelling, and at some point cookie won out. I guess with improved mass communication all these quirky spellings die out more quickly. This is probably something they study diachronic linguistics.
posted by Joe Chip at 6:34 AM on September 12, 2010

I've got a 1957 and a 1967 Websters. The '57 one lists the word under the spelling "cooky" with "cookie" as a variant. The '67 one lists it under "cookie" with "cooky" and "cookey" as variants.
posted by nangar at 6:45 AM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I saw cooky in the 1970 "Children Everywhere" Childcraft Annual. It was a collection of contemporary children's short stories from around the world, complete with contemporary translations. That's the latest I can recall from an American source. Cookie Monster, who debuted in 1969, was probably the death knell for cooky.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you've pinned it down as much as is humanly possible. Looks like "cooky" began to fade in the 50s, but the fade-out was a slow process, which is how these things always work. Think about it: people generally start using "cookie," but older writers grew up with "cooky," and some of them are still using that spelling in the 70s. I would guess that post 1970 or so, it will get very hard to find examples of "cooky."
posted by grumblebee at 7:43 AM on September 12, 2010

Since it's spelled with "je" or "ie" in the original Dutch, I always assumed that the initial English spelling was "cookie" with "cooky" as a regional variant.
posted by elizardbits at 7:50 AM on September 12, 2010

I always thought of cooky as an Americanism along the lines of omitting the 'u' in labour, colour, etc.. I'm familiar with it only from my mother's 1950s era Betty Crocker cookbook.
posted by kch at 10:15 AM on September 12, 2010

I remember seeing it as "cooky" in a lot of my children's books (I was born in the '60's) and it faded by the time I grew up to cookie. I always thought "cooky" was the proper way and it morphed into cookie from the plural (change the 'y' to 'i' and add 'es') like "pinky" (smallest finger) - which I also saw go from "pinky" to "pinkie"
posted by patheral at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2010

Via the ever-useful Google News Archive Advanced Search with Timeline:

Timeline of the use of "cookie" from 1800-2000.

Timeline of the use of "cooky" from 1800-2000.

In other words, (in news media) both versions were widely used until about 1962, at which point "cooky" started to lose steam but "cookie" continued to rise unabated.
posted by beagle at 12:48 PM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also (on the above cited timelines), note that after the 1960s, most instances of "cooky" seem to be people named Cooky, or "cooky" meaning "strange" or "kooky".
posted by beagle at 12:54 PM on September 12, 2010

Others have already chimed in, but I remember seeing cooky in my copy of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, which according to a little Amazon research was the 1987 Scholastic paperback edition (so clearly it was seen as an acceptable variant spelling at that point or I would assume it would have been changed, it being Betty McDonald and not James Joyce).

Wikipedia tells me the book was first published in 1947.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on September 12, 2010

It's not hard to see how the change would happen, both forms would have the same plural. ("Cookies"). My guess is that cooky was the original and through back formation people assumed cookie was the correct word form.
posted by custard heart at 4:26 PM on September 12, 2010

I am glad you asked this question. I've been wondering about it myself -- I have a bunch of vintage cookbooks, and the "cooky" spelling is very common in them.

(Then there is "coconut," which 100 years ago seems to have been frequently spelled "cocoanut"...)
posted by litlnemo at 4:42 AM on September 13, 2010

I don't have anything to back this up, but my theory is that the change might have something to do with the plural. We usually eat and bake more than one cookie (or cooky) at a time. People saw the plural form in print -- cookies -- more often than they saw the singular. And then they just forgot about the original spelling of the singular.

More food (ha ha) for thought -- when did the term cookery die out in favor of cooking? (There must be another thread on that somewhere here)

Someone above mentioned dictionaries as a stabilizing influence on spelling, and I think that's right. So I don't imagine the word symphony, for instance, will suddenly mutate into symphonie anytime soon. But if it did, it would look charmingly antique...

Good thread, thanks :)
posted by frosty_hut at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2010

What I don't understand about this particular instance, and the idea that the existence of dictionaries and widespread print media crystallizing spellings, is that we're talking about an old word that waited to crystallize until the past few decades. Dictionaries have been common for almost 200 years now, and the printed word as a customary feature of most people's lives has been a reality for even longer.

Then again, what has changed a lot in the time since "cookie" began to emerge as the consensus is the popularity of commercially printed cookbooks, as well as the near-universal status of packaged and prepared foods. 200 years ago when dictionaries crystallized the spelling of most words, recipes were passed down by word of mouth or casually written down among friends/family members. And until probably the post-war period, cookies were something you made informally at home from grandma's recipe, not something you bought from the supermarket or needed to consult a cookbook to make.
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 AM on September 13, 2010

Sara C. when I was young, long after the advent of dictionaries, the plural of bus was busses -- now it's buses. Though both are acceptable and listed in many dictionaries, most spell checkers will mark busses as wrong.

My point is, even with dictionaries, spellings change.
posted by patheral at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2010

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